Dr. Haseebullah Ammad, Director of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, spoke exclusively with TNS about the challenges faced by people with disabilities in need of rehabilitation and the role of organizations supporting their recovery. Excerpts:
JSunday news (TNS): What has the Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled achieved since its inception? What was your experience with the organization?
Dr. Haseebullah Ammad (HA): The PSRD was established in 1957 as a small physical therapy room at Mayo Hospital. Today, it has become a model facility for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities that offers comprehensive rehabilitation under one roof. It is not only about the rehabilitation of health care, but also financial, social, psychological and community care. Our work involves but is not limited to:
1. Orthopedic surgical OPD, treating 200 patients daily, and medical OPD also for 200 patients daily.
2. OPD physiotherapy for 120 patients per day.
3. Occupational therapy and OPD speech therapy for 30 patients per day.
4. Orthotics and prosthetics services.
5. School for the physically handicapped which has 250 students who benefit from free transport and meals.
6. Micro-finance for people with disabilities, up to Rs 50,000.
7. Skills Center with monthly salaries of up to Rs 50,000.
9. Placement in higher education.
TNS: Stigmatizing attitudes towards disability can prevent people with disabilities from participating in society and affect their relationships with health care providers. How are PSRD healthcare providers helping to reduce the impact of stigma on their patients?
HA: We build trust using a variety of strategies at school, in our skills center and in our healthcare facilities. We have psychologists who help people build their social confidence. Therapists work on physical abilities, which has a direct impact. The ultimate goal is to enable people with physical disabilities to become effective partners in society. When people see how useful they become, they are appreciated and accepted.
Second, we have a community outreach program and a public relations department. We reach out to their families, counsel them and bring them to our facility for comprehensive care. The public relations department regularly organizes public awareness seminars, social media campaigns and TV shows to raise awareness among the general public.
After complete rehabilitation, most physical functions can be reacquired. The others can be obtained by modification. Nothing is perfect, but a good functional level is often achievable.
TNS: Since the PSRD offers a range of affordable medical and surgical rehabilitation services for people with physical disabilities, what type of patients do you see most often and from what age range?
HA: The most common age group is children – from newborns to 12 years old. Of course, we receive patients of all age groups and genders. As we are known for offering services at subsidized rates, most of the patients who join us are those who cannot afford treatment in other private hospitals. Compared to public sector hospitals, we have shorter wait times for surgery.
TNS: Can you describe the type of care provided during rehabilitation? What is the average duration of treatment?
HA: We provide surgical, medical and physical rehabilitation for people with disabilities. The length of treatment varies a lot. Six to eight weeks may be an average length of treatment for surgical or musculoskeletal patients. For neurological conditions, longer treatments are required. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and orthotics and prosthetics are integral parts of the rehabilitation process.
TNS: What type of cure is most needed? Also, what are the obstacles to overcome and how difficult is the rehabilitation process?
HA: A holistic model of care and healing is needed. The treatment is based on the patient’s needs, potential and condition. Lack of awareness and inadequate government support are our main obstacles. Once a patient comes to us, it’s not as difficult as it may seem.
TNS: What can patients expect after going through rehab?
HA: They can expect maximum recovery. Independence and self-management are what most patients are able to achieve. Sky is the limit.
TNS: How does rehabilitation improve quality of life?
HA: In every possible way one can think of. After complete rehabilitation, most physical functions can be reacquired. The others can be obtained by modification. Nothing is perfect, but a good level of functionality is quite achievable.
TNS: As a non-profit rehabilitation organization, what efforts has PSRD made over the years to serve people with orthopedic disabilities?
HA: The PSRD was probably the only organization in the country that offered comprehensive care under one roof. We help our clients to become useful members of society in every way possible.
TNS: How do you as a physician guide your patients through the rehabilitation process to achieve the desired goals and bring them back to life?
HA: It all starts with advice and helping them set realistic goals. A thorough physical assessment then lays out a roadmap for achieving short- and long-term goals. We make sure to provide everything our patients need or facilitate. We have signed several agreements with other organizations that help us.
The interviewer is an independent contributor